Today, President Barack Obama stood with millions of Americans across political lines in urging the Federal Communications Commission to preserve an open and accessible Internet. This is a huge deal for all Internet users, including artists, whose creative expression, sites and services must not be discriminated against on the whims of a few powerful Internet Service Providers, like Comcast and Verizon. Check out the video and official statement here.
The president hit the nail on the head in supporting light-touch rules using the bedrock principle of “common carriage.” This is part of a longstanding American tradition in communications policy that enables both free expression and economic growth:
To be current, these rules must also build on the lessons of the past. For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business. That is why a phone call from a customer of one phone company can reliably reach a customer of a different one, and why you will not be penalized solely for calling someone who is using another provider. It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information—whether a phone call, or a packet of data.
Specifically, President Obama put forward the following principles as key to any FCC rules to preserve an open Internet:
· No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player — not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.
· No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
· Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
· No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.
Perhaps most importantly, the president explicitly called for the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act:
So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies.
This isn’t a partisan issue. In fact, it’s probably the least partisan issue out there. At its core, net neutrality is about everyone’s ability to participate in a free market powered by creativity, innovation and connectivity. We applaud the president for standing up for what millions of Americans on both sides of the aisle are already demanding: real net neutrality that allows anyone—and not just those with the deepest pockets—to communicate, create and inspire.
The FCC is expected to vote on the new rules by mid-December. We hope that they take the President’s words to heart.